Run, Fat Girl, Run!

It’s Marathon time again! My training program for the 2015 Prairie State Marathon started today and I am so excited.

I ran my first full marathon in May last year. See, I have a tattoo to prove it:


A little prideful, perhaps?

And a sticker on my car:


Okay, I’ll admit that’s pretty obnoxious…

I started out the training at about 145 lbs and finished the marathon tipping the scales at 162 lbs. Despite (erroneous) claims that I lost weight running, I managed to gain just under 20 lbs while running an estimated 422 miles (plus the actual 26.2 of the race). What the….???

It turns out, this isn’t an isolated incident. The phenomenon of packing on the old el-bees while preparing for a long distance race is well-documented. Like many others, I had no clue about this while developing a love of distance running, and promptly fell into many of the pitfalls. I have since done my reading and learned a lot about the physiology of exercise and hunger. This Run Haven article sums up some of the reasons.

I have a friend who disproves this rule, but it’s very true for me and my bulky quads!

While it is true that I was building more muscle and that my body was storing more glycogen, for people like me who battle a food addiction, reason #3, eating too many calories, was definitely the main culprit. During the marathon training, I allowed myself to “carb-up” the night before long runs. Then, after each long run I would experience intense hunger, and I would allow myself to indulge on the grounds that I had burned a tonne of calories. Yes, I had burned a tonne of calories, but probably not as many as those two massive, carby meals (heaping orders of pilau rice from my favourite restaurant) flanking the long runs were providing.

Compounding the issue was the fact that this training program land smack in the middle of my ill-fated departure from using MyFitnessPal to track calories. So those calculations about how much I could eat versus how many calories I was burning involved a lot of very generous “eye-balling.” Translation: more calories were going in than were coming out.

Another issue is heart rate and hormones. As I mentioned above, people close to me seem confused when I try to explain that DDP Yoga was responsible for my weight loss, and running wasn’t. In DDP Yoga, we are told early and often to use a heart rate monitor, and to back off if we go above our fat-burning zone. This keeps us efficiently burning fat and calories, and more importantly, doing so at a rate that goes under the radar of our appetite control centers in our brains.

Running, on the other hand, blasts your heart rate into your high aerobic zone, and (if you are not athletic as was the case when I was training for my first marathon), right into your anaerobic zone. Your brain detects this activity and responds with a massive appetite surge causing you to eat way more than you burned. To make matters even worse, as I learned recently, long periods of moderate or intense cardio cause a huge dump of the stress hormone, cortisol. This hormone causes every calorie you take to be absorbed and stored at maximum efficiency (i.e. guess who’s gaining some weight!).

Don't even get me started on leptin!

Don’t even get me started on leptin!

That’s why cardio exercises like DDP Yoga, walking or light/short jogging that keep you in your fat-burning zone, and strength-building workouts (such as DDP yoga) that help you gain lots of metabolism-boosting muscle are great for weight loss. They don’t trigger huge hunger bouts and leave you with metabolisms geared toward fat storage. That’s not to say running is bad for you. It isn’t. It has a lot of benefits, but you need to know what you’re dealing with, and prepare accordingly.

This has been alarmingly accurate on occasion!

And that’s what I plan to do this time around. First, I am back on the MyFitnessPal wagon, so my calories are going to be carefully monitored. Second, I won’t allow my training program to minimize other programs that are beneficial to weight management such as DDP Yoga and other strength-building workouts. And third, I will be focusing on eating healthy, whole, plant-based foods (no large orders of refined white rice from the Indian restaurant*!). But most importantly, I’ll be having fun. There’s no greater feeling than accomplishing something as huge as a marathon, and putting on 20 lbs didn’t detract from that feeling in the slightest last time. It’s important to care about your body, but it’s more important to remember the number on the scale isn’t everything.

*except maybe the day of the actual race!

P.S. It’s not okay to call anyone “fat,” the title of this article is a play on the only okay movie, “Run, Fat Boy, Run!” 


DDP-ing up the Hancock

Before DDP Yoga​, walking up the 2 concrete steps outside my old house was agony (it felt like rusty machetes were being driven through my kneecaps). Every night, I got out of my car, walked to the steps and paused as I mentally psyched myself to go up the steps. I walked up every flight of stairs one foot at a time (right foot up a step, left foot up to meet it, right foot up the next step, and so on). My pessimistic physical therapist* predicted that I may always have pain associated with going up or down stairs.

This February (less than two years of DDP Yoga under my belt), I ran up 1,632 steps in the Hancock Building with no issues at all. In fact, I came in the top 1/3 of people running the full climb. And of course, I finished out the day with my favourite workout, the DDP Yoga Hip, Back and Knee Opener!




* The same physical therapist who said I wouldn’t be able to run more than a mile without doing intensive, torturous, biweekly physical therapy for at least 1.5 y. I quit the physical therapy, and ran a FULL marathon in under that 1.5 year time frame thanks to DDP Yoga (no torture required!!)

4 Half Marathons in a Month… Goldilocks Style!

Having bombarded Facebook, Twitter and other places online, I promise this is the last time I will mention this: PLEASE consider donating to the JDRF here. This is one of the few, perhaps only, charities that supports Type 1 Diabetes research and patient support. All other charities and funding goes to Type 2 Diabetes, which dwarfs Type 1 research. This is particularly tragic or unfair as Type 1 Diabetes is not preventable, nor is it treatable by simple diet and lifestyle changes, so research is the only way it can be dealt with. I would love to raise $10 for every mile I ran, but honestly I don’t care if you donate via my JustGiving page; I just want money to get to the JDRF. It’s a really important cause!Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 12.15.42 PM

A few months ago, I pledged to run a half marathon every Saturday in October in order to collect money for Type 1 Diabetes (also known as Juvenile Diabetes). I picked this charity in honor of my late Uncle and a friend from secondary school, as well as numerous other friends and acquaintances who live with this condition. Although the races have come and gone, it’s not too late to donate: click here for more information! My initial goal had been to get one race in under 2 hours, but thanks to a hip injury from running in August, I had the opportunity to check my ego, and actually heed DDP’s advice to do all exercise in your heart rate zone, not just DDP Yoga. I switched my 2-hour goal to trying to do at least one race entirely in my heart rate zone. Here’s a recap of the races, and the comedy of errors that they amounted to:

October 4th, Run for the Hills: Not enough sleep

When I ran a full marathon back in May, it ended up being a a grueling endurance test thanks to a distractible barrista at a popular coffee chain that shall remain nameless. Let’s call it Schmarbucks. Thanks to their inability to hear the word “decaf”, I ended up getting 1.5 hours of sleep before heading out for a 26.2 mile run. Shame on me, the day before my first October half marathon I went back to Schmarbucks and ordered a venti decaf Americano with an extra espresso shot. They got 3 of the 4 parts of that order correct. I felt shaky about an hour after drinking it, and pulled the empty cup out of the trash only to find that they decaf box hadn’t been checked. I took some Zzzquil before bed, and then again at 3am when I still wasn’t asleep. I spent the next 3 hours tossing and turning, playing Words with Friends with my European friends, and, most importantly, not sleeping. At 6am, my alarm went off, so I got out of bed, and after precisely zero minutes of sleep, I got in the car and headed to Moraine. Halfway through the race, the Zzzquil finally decided to kick in, and there were a couple of miles where I struggled to keep my eyes open. I have never taken heroin, but I am reasonably sure you get the same high as you get at the turnaround point in a race when you realize you aren’t in dead last place. I somehow made it to the end, where the organizers were cheering people to the finish line and encouraging us to sprint. I had been planning to forgo sprinting the last stretch but there enthusiasm was so infectious I couldn’t resist. On my way home, I bought a Scharmbucks (I can’t stay mad) so I didn’t fall asleep in my car. My husband found me later that day asleep in bed cuddling my venti coffee cup… yes, I have a problem.

Time: 2:21:48.2

October 11th, Prairie State: Too much sleep, too little water

Having proven that I can run a half marathon with no sleep I decided to never, ever test that theory again. The day before the Prairie State half-marathon I didn’t drink any coffee, decaf or otherwise, nor did I trust anyone else to prepare hot drinks for me. Instead, I stuck to camomile tea that I prepared myself. Nevertheless I was nervous about waking up on time as I am not a morning person. It would be particularly embarrassing to miss any of these races as I had made such a big deal about doing them. My husband has dealt with enough of my pre-race jitters that he gets so scared of making noise that he can’t get to sleep, which resulted in him getting in and out of bed a few times as I was trying to get to sleep. Editing out the part of the story that doesn’t reflect well on me, my husband ended up sleeping in the guest room and I was so mad I didn’t get asleep until about 2am. I had my alarm set for 6:30 am which left plenty of time to get dressed, eat breakfast and hydrate properly, drive to the satellite parking, take a shuttle to the race site and warm-up properly in time for the 8am start time. Waking up at 7:38am, which is what actually happened, did not leave me enough time to do all those things. Instead, I woke up, saw the time, screamed the F-word, jumped out of bed and ran straight to the car grabbing whatever clothing and race bibs I could as I passed them, drove in a semi-legal fashion to the satellite parking while getting dressed, ran barefoot to the shuttle where I finished getting dressed (discovering that I had not brought any socks) and spent a very stressful 10 minutes comparing how long Google Maps thought it would get to the race to how long I had left before the start of the race. When the bus finally got to the race grounds, I sprinted off the bus and straight into the start chute as one of the last runners to enter the race, and just kept going for another 13.1 miles. Having not eaten or drunk anything, the first couple of miles before I hit a water station were the worst, but once I got some water I was good. Between the lack of food and the adrenaline-fueled start, my heart rate was a mess so I gave up on trying to stay in my zone but it was a fun race, and it was nice to get back to the first half marathon I ever did.

Time 2:25:15.0

October 18th, Des Plaines River Trail: Too much water

I managed to get just about the correct amount of sleep before the Des Plaines River Trail race, and arrived to the start site at a good time to warm-up before the race. The weather was pretty cold, but tolerable until about 3 minutes before the start of the race when it started raining that very light, cold rain that feels like hundreds of tiny razors. Luckily, the vast majority of the race had tree cover, and it was the most beautiful race course I have ever seen. The trail was lined with whatever type of tree it is (yes, I got my degree from a botany department, can’t you tell?) that has large, bright yellow leaves, and the trail was a carpet of yellow, orange and red leaves. It was like running through a painting. I saw a number of runners taking photos as they ran, which is quite unusual for a race. I didn’t stop running when I took a photo, hence the blurriness. 1614535_10101413629616767_5520314335472699528_oAt the 7 mile mark we found where all the rain that had been falling went when we encountered and underpass with 6 – 8″ of standing water. Some braver runners ran straight through it, but I did the math on how much I didn’t want to run for an additional 6 miles with cold, wet feet, and joined the other runners who climbed along the pile of rocks along the side. This was my favorite race of the month, and between the beautiful scenery and really friendly organizers I will definitely be running this one again.

Time: ??

October 25th, Monster Dash: Just right

The good folks at Schmarbucks once again tried to thwart my efforts to sleep before a race, but luckily, I drank the coffee early enough in the morning that most had been metabolized before bedtime, and the remainder was dealt with by my Zyrtec. During the relatively short bout of insomnia I had that night I realized that the stressful part about this challenge wasn’t doing the races; it was overcoming my disordered sleep patterns and getting to them on time. The morning of the race, I drove out to Chicago and painted my face to look like a Zombie with a mullet wig (a nod to my desire to see Eugene from Walking Dead be dispatched by some hungry zombies post haste). Most people had made some effort to dress up, and the race was a lot of fun, despite being run by the jerks at Team Ortho (long story)! The course started at Avery field and went 6.5 miles south along Lake Michigan which was beautiful. It was a little daunting on the way back seeing the Hancock Building which now looked as if it were about 6″ tall, and realizing we had to more-or-less run all the way back to it. It turned out that the Komen Foundation had a charity walk at the same time, and a lot of Monster Dash runners accidentally took water from their aid station. Luckily, of all charities, we don’t need to feel to bad about stealing their water! I did learn a valuable lesson during the race: if you plan to run in a wig, go ahead a splurge on a high quality one. Otherwise, the second your sweat hits the $10 wig you found on Amazon, you’re going to spend the remainder of the race feeling like you have lice! As this was the last race of the season, I decided to dispense with paying attention to my heart rate and go for pace instead. I got the first 10 miles in under 10 min/mile, and the last 3 miles were a little slower, but overall I was happy to get closer to my pre-injury pace. I had parked in a structure, and on the way back to my car I scared the tar out of a rather large bodybuilder as  I was coming out of an elevator. Once I convinced him I wasn’t actually undead, we had a good laugh about it.

Time: 2:11:27


I was meant to bookmark the month with a Spartan Sprint but my immune system had other ideas, so I typed this up instead. For my future goals, I am going to try and register for the 2015 Hustle Up The Hancock race tomorrow morning. I have been really looking forward to this, so I hope I get a place….. stay tuned!

Pain-free Physical Therapy.

On Friday, I was on the V-Down Podcast discussing my background with chronic knee pain.

In a nutshell, I spent over a decade with chronic knee pain. It got so bad that for the two years in the run up to starting DDP Yoga, I couldn’t walk up a flight of 3 steps without feeling like hunting knives were being driven through my kneecaps.

Right before discovering DDP Yoga, I went to a physical therapist for a month. After doing an assessment of my knees, she told me that it would take at least a year-and-a-half of biweekly therapy sessions before I could even consider running a mile. ONE MILE! And she wasn’t 100% sure that was a realistic goal. I stuck with it for about a month, but I couldn’t take it. Each session involved the PT digging into my IT bands for 30 minutes or so, which left me with dark bruises down my outer thigh. Then, the next session involved the therapist digging into my painful bruises for 30 minutes! For all my suffering, I saw ZERO improvement. So I quit!

In contrast, DDP Yoga was fun, sustainable and effective. In under 3 months, I ran a Warrior Dash. In under 9 months, I ran a Half-Marathon, and in just over a year I ran a Full Marathon. All with zero leg pain.

Yesterday, I went for a casual run. I wasn’t running any set distance; I was just planning to run as long as I felt like it. After getting turned around a couple of times, and spending about 3 miles completely lost in a weirdly laid-out neighborhood, I realized I had run 10 miles. I figured I had enough light to go for 13.1, so I did. Even better, I set a personal record for that distance!

Screen Shot 2014-08-03 at 11.18.20 AM

Coincidentally, we have just reached the date on which my physical therapist said I could possibly consider running ONE mile. And I am running 13.1. For fun. I have 2 upcoming half-marathons this year (I may sign up for more). My new goal is to get one done in under 2 hours. But for now, I am happy in the knowledge that I have gone from being lazy and injured to being the kind of person who runs 13.1 for fun!



I see why the song “Fix You” was chosen for Arthur Boorman’s transformation video:



Shorts: Ink’d

I got a new tattoo! Actually, I modified a pre-existing tattoo. The old one was a kanji symbol that loosely translated to, “I was a moron when I was a teenager.”

The new one was designed for me by a very awesome TeamDDPyoga friend, Robert. The two diamonds represent the Double Black Diamond, and DDP Yoga in general. The banner represents the finish-line, that DDP Yoga helped me get to, and the 26.2 speaks for itself!


There’s Always Some Place to Go… Up! (or DDP for Runners, Pt2)

The mixture of The Firm, Tae Bo, and ill-advised attempts at running punctuating extensive periods of inactivity and unhealthy eating left me with such bad chronic knee pain that I couldn’t walking up the three steps outside my house without feeling like a rusty sabre was being driven through each kneecap. Sorry for the graphic description, but that’s how it felt.

Within the first 90 days of doing DDP Yoga, I was strong enough to run a 5K. Shortly after that I did a Warrior Dash, and after that I felt like my knees were strong enough to do a half-marathon. Throughout the training schedule, I experienced mild knee aches a couple of times, and I found that the Hip, Back and Knee Opener workout was way more effective than my Physical Therapy regimen in relieving that pain.

Last Saturday, after an 18-week program, I ran my first full marathon. While it was tough and at times painful, the one thing that didn’t hurt throughout the entire process was my knees. Not during the training. Not during the race. Not during the recovery. Not once. I think the reason I didn’t get any aches or pains this time around is that I had been doing DDP Yoga for over 9 months by the time I started the training program, and therefore had benefited from the increased flexibility and strength in my legs. Just to be clear, the fact that I was able to run a half-marathon after 6 months of DDP Yoga is a staggering achievement given I couldn’t walk or go up stairs without pain before DDP Yoga.

I was about 3 footsteps beyond the finish-line when people started asking me, “So, what’s next?” The 10% part of me wanted to scream back, “I just ran 26 point frickin’ two miles! What do you want from me???” or launch into a very sarcastic diatribe about how having fulfilled my destiny, I should just, having nothing left to live for, commit Seppuku. But the living life at 90% part of me remembered that there’s always some place to go.

There are a couple of options for kicking it up a notch from a marathon: ultra-marathon, triathlon, imitating Forrest Gump. While I never say never, I will #@$%& do a triathlon because the sight of me swimming is the water’s answer to a beached whale. Ultra-marathons are not off the list, but they are not coming up anytime soon. So what to do, what to do?

Then it occurred to me, after trailing behind a car with this bumper sticker (and some subsequent googling):

There is no better way to showcase how DDP has fixed my knees than to prove that I have gone from being someone who couldn’t walk up 3 steps to being someone who can run up  1,632 of them! Sadly, I missed the event by a month, so I will have to wait until April, 2015 to do this race, unless I find another tower run in Chicago (email me if you know of one!). In the meantime, I have a Tough Mudder, a Mudderella, a Warrior Dash, a Rugged Maniac, a Dirty Dash, a 10K, a Blacklight run, a Foam Glow race, a half and a full marathon to keep me entertained!